I wouldn’t normally draw your attention to such matters, but I have been asked by some members of WATCH if participants in the Affirming Liberalism network might like to help in supporting the cause of women bishops in the Church of England. It seems that this may be a legitimate concern of liberal Christians. (With apologies to non-Anglicans! )
WATCH has provided clarification of key issues that are currently being addressed by the Church of England, as well as a more detailed attached document which has been sent out to all WATCH members. These matters take a little time to read and digest, but they are highly significant issues of our day and it is good to be abreast of these developments, whether or not you decide to take action.
There is narrow window of opportunity (by next Monday 16th March) for some relatively simple action, if you so wish, by contacting the Clerk to the General Synod of the Church of England. Letters can be sent to David Williams, Clerk to the General Synod, Church House, Great Smith St, London SW1P 3AZ. You can also email your letter as an attachment to david.williams Letters to be headed; “Women Bishops Legislation – Submission to Revision Committee”.
You may be aware that the General Synod of the Church of England voted through the Legislative Drafting Group’s proposals earlier this month and that the drafts have therefore been approved for a revision stage. Anyone is free to write to the Revision Committee to propose amendments before the close of business on March 16th.
The Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch, who chairs the legislative
drafting group (LDG) which drew up the proposals, moved that the Measure be
considered for revision in committee.
He said that the door is open to all proposals at this stage, even those which have
been voted down in previous Synods. These means people are able to press again for
the simplest possible provision for female bishops on exactly the same terms as men
in a single clause measure.
This is what WATCH is advocating because if women are to take their rightful part in
the institutional structure of the established church they must do so on equal terms
with their male counterparts. Otherwise there will be Bishops and Lady Bishops.
In legal terms this translates into retaining clause 1 of the Measure but deleting
clauses 2 & 3. WATCH again suggests that any provision for those opposed to the
ordained ministry of women should be at the discretion of the local bishop. If any
more formal provision is made for those opposed it should be of limited duration and
subject to periodic review. In legal terms this means any clause other than clause 1
of the Measure should cease to have effect after a prescribed period and should be
the subject of regular review up to that point.
The attached WATCH document gives detailed advice about possible amendments which is clear and easy to follow. The drafts themselves can be found at
It may also be useful to be aware of two broad criticisms of the approach adopted
by the LDG.
The committee has approached its task as if the primary concern was to regulate two
conflicting sets of rights – the rights of women clergy and the rights of those who
oppose the ordination of women as priests and bishops (paras 9 & 16 of GS1707).
However, there is a third group of people whose rights need to be taken into
account, namely the general population of this country. They should have a right to
be served by an established church which is non-discriminatory. The approach taken
by the committee ignores this wider group and leads to a focus on the internal power
dynamics of the church rather than engaging with the people the church is called to
The concepts of ‘genuine theological conviction’ and ‘good conscience’ (paras 9 & 12
of GS 1707) have been used as the basis for a justification of structural provisions
for opponents of women’s ordained ministry. This language is incorporated into para
4 of new Canon A4. (‘members of the c-of-e may with a good conscience hold
theological convictions which render them unable to receive the ministry of female
bishops or priests’).
However, the criteria of ‘genuine’ and ‘held in good conscience’ are not relevant to
any argument about the validity of a theological conviction. The considered and
prayerful discernment of the General Synod is that the theological argument for
women priests and bishops is convincing. The sincerity Those who are unable to
receive the ministry of ordained women in the church are simply wrong and the
sincerity of their belief does not make them right.